Tarot Talk

Five of Cups

(The Five of Cups card is from the artist Ciro Marchetti http://www.ciromarchetti.com/)**

Last month we talked about the Two of Cups. This month we will talk about another Cups card, the Five of Cups. This one, like the other Five cards, appears sad on the surface but we will look for the silver lining.

The Five of Cups is a Minor Arcana card, so we know right away that the message offered by this card will most likely be more immediate in nature, or will most likely be connected to more day-to-day issues. Remember, while on the surface a Minor Arcana card can appear insignificant or mundane, it can also possibly be a symptom of a deeper or wider issue. Nothing in the Minor Arcana is in any way minor in nature.

We already know that the easiest way to get a decent understanding of a Minor Arcana card is to examine its number, or in the case of Court Cards, its rank, and to examine its suit. In this case, we are dealing with the number 5, and the suit of Cups, and just examining these two ingredients could actually give you enough information about this one card to offer a useful interpretation to a seeker. But we have even more to consider, so let’s get started.

We talked about the suit of Cups in detail last month, but let’s go over it all again. Many Tarot decks use images of cups or chalices and water on their Minor Arcana Cups cards. The traditional image on the Five of Cups shows a person facing away from the observer dressed in a long, flowing dark blue robe, head bowed downward and seeming to emanate grief. The person is looking at three toppled Cups lying on the ground before him, their contents spilled out, and sometimes the Cups are broken. Often there is a river flowing nearby and in the distance beyond the river are rocky hills. Behind the robed figure and out of his view are two other Cups also on the ground, but these two are upright and undamaged.

The suit of Cups corresponds with the cardinal direction of West, the color blue, the playing cards of Hearts, and the element of Water. In its natural state, Water is cool and wet. Water has weight; picking up a gallon of water proves that. Water tends to gather into or flow to the lowest place; it will use already-in-place channels to get there if it can, but will create its own roadways or channels if necessary. Water is used for cleaning and purifying, and Water can be a carrier for other substances. For instance, we can dissolve salt or sugar into warm Water, and use that concoction for other things. A body of Water can be calm and deep, or it can be dangerously churning and filled with powerful currents.

The element of Water corresponds to our feelings and emotions. Emotions flow and have currents and eddies, and a powerful wave of emotions can be cleansing. Emotions can be hot and expanding or they can be bubbling upward, like steam, or cold and contracting and heavy, like ice. Our emotions can affect our physical bodies (which contain a lot of Water) and our health. Often, tears appear when we feel things strongly, as physical manifestations of those emotions.

Water also represents the Inner Voice and the mysteries of the subconscious. That calm body of water can reflect the trees and hills, and even the clouds and the sky around it, on its still surface and hide from our view the dark and cold depths inhabited by mysterious creatures. In order to explore those silent depths and discover the mysteries there, we must break the surface and enter this quiet and hidden realm.

Astrology is a tool that can offer subtle effects for us to consider as we analyze this card. The Five of Pentacles corresponds to the planet Mars (action, aggression, drive) when it is in the sign of Scorpio (“I desire,” intense, controlling, mysterious, obsessive).

Mars is known as the “Red Planet,” and this makes sense because Mars is about energy, passion, drive and determination, all fiery personality traits. Mars is commanding, confident, and powerful, asking us to stand up and be noticed without fear. Ambition and competition are also associated with this planet; Mars encourages us to face challenges and to be our best with honor. Mars rules our sexuality and sexual energy, and governs weapons, accidents and surgery. It’s important to remember that Mars’s energy can be either constructive or destructive. In the end, however, the energy of Mars can be quite useful if used properly.

Scorpio is a fixed Water sign. In Astrology, Fixed Signs are associated with stabilization, determination, depth and persistence. For Scorpios, these traits are found through achievement, and through going deep into the timeless mysteries of the imagination, dreams, and passions. Scorpios are powerful and willful in all they do; they stick with a task to the end, often achieving much more than Cardinal and Mutable Signs. On the other hand, they are also inflexible, rigid, stubborn, opinionated and single-minded. Scorpios are extremely loyal and will always remember a kind gesture. They love to learn about others; the curiosity of Scorpios is immeasurable.

Mars and Scorpio have a connection (Mars is said to rule Scorpio), and thus they support each other. Together they create a greater ability to work through difficult times. These energies are not about compromise but rather about finding a way to get the job done. These signs are not afraid of looking under the surface or exploring the dark corners, and together they have the endurance to bring about a major transformation. The down side of this combination is the potential for passion to slide into obsession.

When dealing with the Minor Arcana, perhaps the most important ingredient besides the suit of the card is the number of the card. In the Tarot, the number 5 is seen as adding motion to the depth and stability of the energy of the number 4 card, often toppling or destroying that depth and stability in order to prevent stagnation. If we look at the card right before the Five of Cups and follow it through to our card, we can gain some insight into the effects of the number 5.

The Four of Cups is about visualizing goals and dreaming of the future, however it also warns us that too much dreaming of the future can cause us to miss opportunities that present themselves in the present. The number 5 adds Motion to the potential for distraction from reality that is the Four of Cups, kind of like a tap on the shoulder to wake us up. All of the Tarot Fives are uncomfortable mainly because of this added Motion. In the other Minor Fives we have the need to control others (Swords), the lack of possessions and support (Pentacles), and ideas moving in random and unorganized directions (Wands). If we dream of pleasures and become addicted to those dreams, we will end up soft and weak with deadened senses, but if we find a way to counteract our tendency to indulge ourselves, we can be awakened to the possibilities in the outer world and the present moment. This awakening is the job of the Five of Pentacles.

The Tree of Life offers us further insight into this uncomfortable Motion that is causing our troubles. All of the Fives of the Tarot Minor Arcana correspond with the Sephira of Geburah (which means “Might”), the fifth Sephira on the Tree, the second on the Pillar of Form/Restriction. Geburah is also known as Judgment, and Fear, and its effects and manifestations can indeed be difficult. To some, an easy life is an ideal situation, but in the end the easy life offered through never experiencing any true tests lacks the opportunity for growth and evolution, and growth and evolution are the purposes of living.

Geburah is about courage and power and invincibility, and these things can bring us true fulfillment, or they can help to release our cruel side. But unless we are exposed to these temptations, we will never know if we have the will to set them aside when they become unbalanced. Believing that we have the power and authority to make decisions for others is often a recipe for disaster.

That is a lot of information to consider!! We are dealing with a Five card, so we know that it will present some discomfort. This is a Cups card, so we know the discomfort will be connected to our dreams, visions, feelings, emotions, and the actions and effects of the subconscious and the Inner Voice.

The Hermetic Tarot Five of Cups shows plant growth, yet no flowers. The five Cups in this image are empty, and the plant stems look a bit leggy to me, as if they had water but no sunlight. In the Hermetic Tarot, the Five of Cups represents partial loss, and the death of pleasure (indeed the card is named “Lord of Loss of Pleasure”). The key here is that while we are losing something, we can go on and perhaps have a happy ending. The reversed pentagram in the middle of this image hints at what needs to be corrected: we are focusing too much on strong feelings and physical pleasures, without allowing the mind and the feelings and the Higher Self to have a voice.

The Thoth Tarot Five of Cups, named “Disappointment,” also has flowers in its image, two lotus blossoms that appear to be drooping and losing their petals. The five Cups are in the shape of an inverted pentagram, similar to the Hermetic Tarot, symbolizing the triumph of matter over spirit. The beautiful sea of the Four of Cups (named “Luxury”) has turned stagnant. Here we can see a clear progression from Love (the Two of Cups) to Abundance (the Three of Cups), which brings Luxury (the Four of Cups); the next step is boredom, frustration, and decadence, and the Disappointment of the Five of Cups!

The Llewellyn Welsh Five of Cups has a traditional image. It tells of unfulfilled dreams and the difficulty of accepting a loss. Here is the spilled milk that we are not supposed to cry over. This card also tells of being limited by the memory of a past pain, and of being manipulated by emotional strings. “Suffering over one’s suffering” is a great description of this card.

The Gateway to the Divine Tarot Five of Cups shows a woman huddled against a wall, face filled with distress. Before her on the ground are three shattered glass Cups; she holds an unharmed Cup in each hand. She is not looking at those two intact Cups, but instead focuses on what might have been, symbolized by the broken Cups before her, rather than accepting what has happened and moving on with the two remaining Cups. Her loss is probably connected to something that was expected to bring pleasure, such as a loving relationship.

When the Five of Cups shows up in a reading, we are being told that our discomfort and dismay are valid and painful, but they are also a wake-up call telling us all is not lost. Our vision is focused narrowly on the spilled Cups and the loss and disappointment they symbolize, but if we could tear our eyes from the destruction and look around, we will find that all is not lost. There, behind the cloaked figure bowed in grief shown on the Five of Cups, are two intact Cups, filled to the brim. He has only to take his focus away from the lost potential and what could have been, and instead look around him at what he still has now and he will see that happiness is still available to him. This could very well be an opportunity to leave behind what has hurt him and turn to a different and more fulfilling direction.

** This year we will be featuring the art of Ciro Marchetti as part of Tarot Talk.  You can view his work and Decks at http://www.ciromarchetti.com/ .


About the Author:

Raushanna is a lifetime resident of New Jersey. As well as a professional Tarot Reader and Teacher, she is a practicing Wiccan (Third Degree, Sacred Mists Coven), a Usui Reiki Master/Teacher, a certified Vedic Thai-Yoga Massage Bodyworker, a 500-hr RYT Yoga Teacher specializing in chair assisted Yoga for movement disorders, and a Middle Eastern dance performer, choreographer and teacher.  Raushanna bought her first Tarot deck in 2005, and was instantly captivated by the images on the cards and the vast, deep and textured messages to be gleaned from their symbols. She loves reading about, writing about, and talking about the Tarot, and anything occult, mystical, or spiritual, as well as anything connected to the human subtle body. She has published a book, “The Emerald Tablet: My 24-Day Journey To Understanding,” and is currently working on a book about the Tarot, pathworking and the Tree of Life. Raushanna documents her experiences and her daily card throws in her blog, DancingSparkles.blogspot.com, which has been in existence since 2009. She and her husband, her son and step son, and her numerous friends and large extended family can often be found on the beaches, bike paths and hiking trails of the Cape May, NJ area.

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